London, May 22 (IANS) Adding a very small amount of graphene — the world’s thinnest and strongest material — to rubber films can increase both their strength and the elasticity by up to 50 percent, says a study by an Indian-origin researcher.
Aravind Vijayaraghavan and Maria Iliut from Britain’s University of Manchester added graphene of different kinds, amounts and size to two kinds of rubbery materials — natural rubber, comprised of a material called polyisoprene, and a man-made rubber called polyurethane.
In most cases, they observed that the resulting composite material could be stretched to a greater degree and with greater force before it broke, said the study published recently in the journal Carbon.
Indeed, adding just one tenth of one percent of graphene was all it took to make the rubber 50 percent stronger.
“A composite is a material which contains two parts, a matrix which is soft and light and a filler which is strong. Taken together, you get something which is both light and strong. This is the principle behind carbon fibre composites used in sports cars, or Kevlar composites used in body armour,” said Vijayaraghavan.
“In this case, we have made a composite of rubber, which is soft and stretchy but fragile, with graphene and the resulting material is both stronger and stretcher,” he added.
The scientists used a form of graphene called graphene oxide, which, unlike graphene, is stable as a dispersion in water. The rubber materials were also in a form that was stable in water, allowing them to combine them before forming thin films with a process called dip moulding.
“The important thing here is that because these films are so thin, we need a strengthening filler which is also very thin. Fortunately, graphene is both the thinnest and strongest material we know of,” Iliut said.
The project aimed at developing a more desirable condom. According to Vijayaraghavan, the new composite material has tremendous implications in daily life.